Editor's note: The following blog was written by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in response to comments made by five local chief executive officers during a Public Policy Forum last Thursday. The comments, which criticized Milwaukee as a place to do business, were summarized in an OnMilwaukee.com blog written by Small Business Times executive editor Steve Jagler.
I don't believe we are our own worst enemy. We have leaders in business, higher education and government who not only call Milwaukee home but who work tirelessly to move Milwaukee forward.
In the last three-and-a-half years, we have seen, first-hand, the results of true partnerships.
Despite the City's limited capital and operating funds, I have been aggressive in the use of Tax Incremental Financing, New Market Tax Credits and Renewal Community Grants. We have made substantial investments in retaining and attracting companies that add value to our community. Companies like Manpower, Direct Supply and DRS. We have turned around the Menomonee Valley, and we have a large investment in the revitalization of the old Pabst Brewery site. As I write this, the City is preparing an investment strategy for the 30th Street Industrial Corridor (see this week's cover story in Small Business Times).
We are on the move with a new School of Public Health, the Harley Museum and millions of dollars being invested in the Fifth Ward, Mitchell Street and Bronzeville.
None of the above would have happened without a firm belief that Milwaukee is a good place to invest, a place to call home.
I have sought to increase the pool of qualified workers by investing in programs that improve workforce development. In 2006, I utilized the City's Development Fund to make a grant to Bucyrus International to fund job training for welders.
Last year, I requested the City of Milwaukee be designated the lead on Workforce Development for our region and am working hard to link employers to area residents in need of family supporting jobs.
I too believe that we need to invest in regional transportation. Milwaukee and the region would benefit from commuter rail, fast trains and an overhaul of local transit systems.
But Milwaukee is not in China, where the national government not only holds the power of the purse but also the power of the infrastructure investment decisions.
For Milwaukee and our region to move forward on a multi-modal investment strategy, we're going to have to follow the lead of Atlanta, Phoenix and a host of other metro-regions where business leaders and elected officials invested time, money and talent in a concentrated effort to move multi-modal, regional transportation from the idea stage to reality.
Our regional economy does not operate according to municipal boundaries. That's why I've invested greatly in building a regional approach. The Milwaukee 7 is a comprehensive approach to integrating public and private economic development tools that will aid the region in recruitment, retention, attraction and expansion of business.
The City and region have multiple challenges and issues that we must continue to address. We will move forward. We have the resources and the will to do so. And, despite a few comments made at a luncheon, we are poised for a greater and better future.
To those who want to accept that challenge, my door is open. I would welcome the help in fighting for an improved business climate for our city where we could more easily attract, retain and expand job opportunities.